Thursday, November 6

Pot Heads: A New Wave of Ceramic Artist in Los Angeles

“Pot Heads: A New Wave of Ceramics Artists in Los Angeles” is an exhibit that explores the ceramics world as it exists in Los Angeles today.

Curator Andrea Arria-Devoe has selected eight of the best ceramic artists currently working in Los Angeles:

Dora De Larios & Irving Place Studio


All eight artists were selected as examples of the resurgence in the popularity of hand-thrown, functional ceramics, and all of the selected works for Pot Heads were created as unique pieces. Though several of the artists have ventured into the world of retail, mass production, ceramics. This is an important note about the "Pot Heads" exhibit; when I spoke with Andrea Arria-Devoe, she mentioned that the exhibit is intended to address a common debate in the ceramics community, can an artist be creative and also run a successful business? Or are they selling out by venturing into mass production?

Mirena Kim mentioned to me that she had been involved in production for the Heath company in Los Angeles. Heath has produced dinner ware since the 1940s, as well as a line of decorative vases, and tiles. After a change in ownership in 2003, the company has continued to produce tableware and tile designs.

The Heath company has it's own fascinating history, addressed in their self published book "Heath Ceramics: The Complexity of Simplicity". Most notably The Heath Company designed and created the tiles that adorn the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, Calif.

When I visited Mirena in her studio she was in full blown production mode; she and her assistant were preparing to ship a large number of cups, plates, and bowls to a customer. The two of them were also getting ready for her annual pre-holiday sale, which is this weekend if you are in Los Angeles and interested.

Mirena Kim, walks the line of production and design confidently. She meticulously designs each item before she creates them; diagrams with measurements line the wall next to her wheel. She and her assistant churn out large numbers of cups, bowls, and vases, but they are all created by hand. No molds or production line machines are used in her studio. When asked about her theory as to why the ceramics community is now experiencing this renaissance she stated, “I believe it’s connected to the slow food movement. There is a new appreciation that came with that [movement], people want to appreciate every aspect of the dinning experience. Quality, handmade ceramics becomes a part of the experience.”
Dora De Larios, featured artist and co-founder of Irving Place Studios, is representative of the other side of this debate. De Larios has been sculpting for six decades, and  her career accomplishments are varied, but the majority of her critically acclaimed work is sculptural and nonfunctional.

Despite being a sculptor rather than a retail giant, De Larios & Irving Place studios have seen no slump in success. Most notably, her work has been featured in exhibits at the Los Angeles County Museum, The Autry, The White House, and sent to  the city of Nagoya Japan as a gift from the City of Los Angeles.

As a whole, the exhibition does a good job of introducing the work of the eight featured artists, but there are no pieces of production ware to contrast the sculptural pieces. Without further narrative, the debate is overtly one sided. The casual observer, new to ceramics, could easily miss the discussion this installation is intended to spark.

All of these artists do sell their work, and most of it can be found for sale on their websites.

“Pot Heads: A New Wave of Ceramics Artists in Los Angeles” is now on view at the Design Matters Gallery, on 11527 West Pico Blvd. until Nov. 16.

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